Green Public Library Publication & IFLA SIG

A new publication is now available called Going Green in North American Public Libraries: A Critical Snapshot of Policy and Practice and it will be presented  10 August 2010 – 15 August 2010  (in Gothenburg, Sweden) at the Environmental Sustainability and Libraries SIG Open Session. Learn more about this SIG of IFLA.

Thanks for the news item, Monika Antonelli!

Paper or Plastic … or reusable

Do you give out bags with checked out items at the library? Plastic? Paper? Reusable with the library logo?  A recent article in the WSJ takes a look at the factors of all types of bags and provides some good data and explanations of paper vs plastic debate. here is the chart from the article that simplifies the concepts:


(a personal comment on resuable bags and forgetting them:  its just about making it a  habit, like remembering your wallet.  keeping one of the many bags we get free at library conferences in your car OR get a small one (like these!) to keep in your backpack or purse would make it easy too remember!)

Recycled Paper

As we try and switch over to recycled paper in the library, many questions and issues arise. The cost – why is it more than virgin paper? What type of recycled paper do we want to buy?  And some people say that the recycled paper jams their printers.

Here are some answers I found exploring this recycled paper topic:

High cost? think economies of scale: virgin paper mills are well established while recycled paper mills are still developing on a smaller scale.  Also,  the gathering, refining, treating (in the most e-friendly way) to produce recycled paper costs more than just creating virgin paper. And recycled paper incorporates all its costs into the product (such as alternative to disposal) and is not rewarded fiscally for its significantly lower energy and water use. Virgin paper costs receive generous government timber, energy, and water subsidies and do not incorporate responsibility or costs for the product’s eventual disposal. And the consumerism factor – if more people buy it and there is more a market for the product, more competition in the market, and companies realize this is what people want (to pay for what they value) costs will eventually go down but in the end, you get what you pay for.

Recycled paper jamming a problem? Some reasons why: a bad batch of paper, poor maintenance of copier machine, improper storage of paper (allowing moisture to affect sheets), improper handling of paper (not fanning paper out, not loading paper according to grain, not allowing paper to warm up (or cool down) to match the temperature of the copier room), the user must be sure to orient the curl of the paper in the correct direction; too much dust in a copier room can be a killer, etc.  (Info from the Federal Network of Sustainability)  Here are some other articles on this topic:  Recycled Paper The Best Choice | National Assoc of Paper Merchants | Green Purchasing at Yale

Reach for Unbleached

Did you know that in its natural state paper is off-white to brown in color though most paper we seem to use at work is white? That is because chlorine is used to make it the supposedly more appealing white color. Chlorine containing organic compounds are listed as a top pollutant for their impact on human health and the environment (for more details on this you can read the UN’s Environmental Progamme’s Persistent Organic Compounds(POPs) page) If you want bleached paper, try oxygen bases bleaches.  Also, note that “Chlorine Free” labels are deceiving; that can just mean not elemental chlorine yet forms of chlorine are still used.  The Reach for Unbleached Foundation has lots more information on this topic.

Unbleached paper products are available for everything from printer paper to file folders as well as paper products like tissues that you might use around the office. Check with your office supply company to see if they offer unbleached options.

No Handouts?

Have you been reading the comments and blogs posts in the past couple weeks, since Nicole Engard on her blog What I Learned Today posted about not giving out handouts at her presentations in order to be green? It is something worth considering. Tons of paper is wasted from large conferences (even with much of it being supposedly recycled). Most conferences now offer to host your presentations online (and most presenters also plan to post their information online) and these can be download at or following the conference. Also, many people take notes at conference presentations directly on their laptop or mobile devices.

Some people argue they need handouts to follow and understand the presentation, that it is better for their learning style. What to do? Someone commented on Nicole’s blog about shredding wasted handouts and using them for composting. Several people have commented that they do the one sheet handout – one page only with basic information but direct people to go online to find the bulk of the content. I have been using this method for a while, to cut back wasted paper yet still please those who want something in their hands. I also have taken many classes online instead of in person at the conference physical location (which cuts back on way more than saving paper!) When I worked in map libraries we took the old, discarded maps, cut up as scratch paper (maps also makes good wrapping paper for gifts) so we were reusing before recycling. The SLA Conference (begins this weekend in Seattle) will be offering handouts only online. It will be good too to see how people attending like this idea or not.

Something I learned at a leadership institute I attended a few years ago: change takes time and you can’t please everyone, but sometimes you have a be a pioneer and risk it anyway.

IMHO, the better a presenter facilitates learning with interactive, audience participation, multifaceted sessions, the more everyone seems to learn (by doing instead of being told).

Save Paper When Faxing

First ask yourself –  can you send the document over the internet? There are many internet options: just send it via emailed instead; for short faxes it can usually be sent for free; for longer faxes there are many services listed here.  Faxing over the internet will also save you a dedicated phone line.

If it has to be sent in non-digital form, you can also create a template and print out many little stickers on one page – slap a sticker on the first sheet of your fax and you have already saved one whole sheet of paper.